Delicious Dog Food
August 15, 2016 8:01 AM   Subscribe

My dog has been on a hunger strike for a few weeks now (not atypical for him during the hottest part of the summer, but this is getting ridiculous). He expresses interest in treats, people food, bunny poop, and cat food so it's not like he has zero appetite; he just has no desire for his usual dry food.

His vet suggested trying a different brand, but I've been feeding him the same thing (large breed Iams) since he got off puppy food and I have no idea which in the vast sea of dog food bags at the local pet supply store will do the job. Does anyone have any experience with fussy dogs or dogs who need a little extra encouragement to eat? Any recommendations of very delicious dog food that will get this guy to eat willingly? These are the brands that are readily accessible.

Obvious medical causes have been ruled out. The beginning of this hunger strike coincided with me and my husband going out of town for a week. He is an elderly Old English Sheepdog.

Obligatory picture
posted by chaoticgood to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a fussy old Staffy and she frequently refuses to eat breakfast in a timely manner (like before I have to go to work, please?!)

My secret - a little sprinkle of grated cheese on top of the dry kibble. Not all the time, not heaps, but just enough to be interesting.

Good luck, I feel your pain!
posted by teststrip at 8:08 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hate to change food on a dog who's otherwise doing well on one. Have you tried the usual incentives like drizzling/stirring with baby food or yogurt, a blop of wet food, a little browned ground beef and juice, or hiding a few bites of high-value treat/hot dog/chicken inside*? There are also enticingly-flavored dry vitamin powders and probiotics that might get him more excited about his regular food.

If he's normally free-fed, try offering his bowl (with a little bit of excited hyping) just for a few minutes morning and evening (this is preferable if you're going to put some spoilable dressing on it anyway).

*My husband is convinced that one of our dogs' extremely annoying digging behavior in his food bowl is a result of us hiding dry treats in it when he was tiny. I think he's just being a jerk dog because it gets him attention, but maybe keep that in mind if you're going to hide bonuses in the food.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:10 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My friend's elderly lab would eat kibble at the end only with a big pump of Yummy Chummy salmon oil on top....maybe something nice and smelly mixed in would help?
posted by charmedimsure at 8:14 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can also try the chicken and rice bland diet, slowly adding more kibbles back into the food over 5-7 days.
posted by answergrape at 8:24 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Going through this with my cat and the typical advice I've been hearing is to try things that have a strong scent. Is there a reason you want to stick with dry food? Canned food might be more enticing smell-wise. Or if he's getting up there in age, his teeth might be hurting; canned food might help with that too.
posted by bleep at 8:25 AM on August 15, 2016

Sometimes my dog refuses to eat his food for a few days just like this (I assume because he's an asshole). His favorite thing? The fucking cheapest, nastiest, petsmart store brand canned food they have. He tears through it like he's at Thanksgiving dinner. The next day he goes right back to his regular kibble like nothing ever happened. It's like a giant reset button for his little dogbrain. I always keep a can or two for emergency hunger strike situations or when he's feeling sick/too hot and loses his appetite.

He will not touch more expensive/higher quality wet food. Only this dreck.

My point is, just throw anything at the little guy right now to see if he'll eat something and see if that gets him back on track once he remembers how good a full belly feels. Always seems to work for my dog.
posted by phunniemee at 8:26 AM on August 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a fussy eater. I tried a lot of different dry foods. She's equally fussy about all of them.

I started putting just a bit of wet canned food mixed into her dry. (Cut the dry proportion a little bit.) It works as well as anything. When I make tuna fish, I pour some of the water (not oil-packed) onto her food -- she eats quite a bit on those days. She's not a fan of pumpkin, but most dogs are, so you might try a bit of that.

She eats more now that I'm taking her to the dog park regularly. My dog is weird. She pulls pieces of food out of her bowl and leaves them on the floor (even weirder, my other dog who snarfs up any food tidbits like a vacuum cleaner, won't touch the pieces the first dog leaves on the floor?! He'll steal food directly out of her bowl, but nobody touches the pieces on the floor?!). Her ideal eating schedule is to eat once per day, at 10 o'clock at night.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:26 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would definitely just try some wet food and see if that helps, I think my dog finds it more pleasant to eat wet food when it's super hot out. Merrick is a good brand.
posted by cakelite at 8:31 AM on August 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

If he likes treats, can you mix the treats in with his dry food and dampen the food so he can't just pick out the treats?

My dog does the same thing but a splash of chicken/beef broth or yogurt and some treats in the bowl will make him at least eat some of it.
posted by winna at 8:44 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Like others above, we started stirring a spoonful of wet food in with the dry food, mixing it so the smelly wet food sticks to the dry. My picky, elderly dog hoovered it up. We went back and forth between beef and chicken wet food just to keep him interested.

Freaking bunny poop.
posted by kimberussell at 8:56 AM on August 15, 2016

Cannot see obligatory photo...hmfph!

Or if he's getting up there in age, his teeth might be hurting; canned food might help with that too.

This! He still has an appetite (for people treats, bunny poop, cat food, etc.) but is not eating his dry food. Is your cat food wet or dry? If it's dry, is it smaller kibble?
posted by the webmistress at 8:56 AM on August 15, 2016

Response by poster: Hey all,
Thanks for the suggestions! I've already been mixing in diced meat, treats, etc. It helps a bit but the stinker is pretty good at picking out the good stuff and leaving the rest. I will try some wet food and maybe some with a smaller sized kibble. This is the first time he has been this stubborn about eating. Usually he gobbles everything up without fuss.

He gets a daily liquid medication squirted on his dry food, which is why I'm eager to find one he'll eat at one feeding instead of picking around.

And sorry for the bad link! Hopefully this one works.
posted by chaoticgood at 9:16 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

great pic! 3 floofs for the price of one!
posted by phunniemee at 9:20 AM on August 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

I would put water on my dog's (RIP) kibble and make a little gravy for her. Switching foods with dogs can have undesirable consequences. We used water also because she was a gulper and didn't chew her food. Adding the water helped slow down her eating.
posted by terrapin at 9:39 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mix the kibble with warmed water or beef broth.
posted by wwax at 9:41 AM on August 15, 2016

Lately I've been cracking an egg over our dogs' dry food if they need encouragement. Obviously, the goo goes all over everything, so they eat it all. Of course, you may not be comfortable with the raw egg thing (we have chickens, so not so worried).
posted by slipthought at 9:43 AM on August 15, 2016

Mm that's one thing I forgot - maybe the dry food is too hard on old teeth? All the suggestions about adding water will help, but maybe worth dental getting checked out.
posted by teststrip at 9:51 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you know of a real butcher near you? If so, you might be able to take some offcuts and organ meats off of their hands for not much more than the cost of having them grind it up for you if they don't already sell the same for dog food.

This is what our dogs eat supplemented with a dog slop of mostly sweet potatoes with dog-safe veggie scraps all cooked together and mashed up. All approved and monitored by the vet. We've also simply mixed it with dry food in the past.

This scheme is actually significantly cheaper for us than buying high-end commercial food either wet, dry, or frozen, and I'd be hard pressed to imagine anything more delicious than raw meat and guts to a dog.
posted by cmoj at 9:55 AM on August 15, 2016

You may already be doing this, but if you're not: put his food bowl up on an overturned storage bin or box so he does not have to lean down to eat. Old dogs get a little creaky.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:13 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The fact that the dog is picking out tasty bits and leaving boring kibble suggests this might be more about the dog deciding he can get better stuff if he holds out. Tough call, but dogs can and do play mind games/have battles of will on this stuff, just like toddlers. So at least consider holding firm on the Iams.

Not sure if it's been mentioned yet, but you might consider a grainless kibble for pickier dogs or dogs with special dietary needs. There are several options, I like "Taste of the Wild" brand.

(And I mean that literally, their venison and sweet potato is probably the best dry dog kibble I've ever tasted!)
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:13 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Green can of Kraft parmesan cheese. Sprinkle, stir, serve. Magic.
posted by mmf at 10:18 AM on August 15, 2016

I also have a dog who pulled this on me. Six brands of food later, I have determined that the little prince prefers Zignature turkey dry dog food.

However, I can reliably get him to eat just about anything if I take a big spoonful of peanut butter and mix it with hot water and pour it over his kibble. I had also tried adding water, switching to wet food, mixing wet food, going to a bland diet, etc etc etc. Peanut butter was the key to getting him back to eating again.
posted by ananci at 10:57 AM on August 15, 2016

Mine eats raw for breakfast (a complete mix from Nature's Menu is what i feed but you can easily do your own, i just enjoy convenience) and orijen (a very high grade, high protein kibble) for dinner, with some canned meat mixed through it (we use Lily's Kitchen). In our case he's a teething pup and he just struggles with dry kibble, plus i like the gusto with which he eats his raw meals. He's a standard poodle.

People in our obedience group use orijen kibble as training treats, it is apparently that yummy. I might try that if you're looking for a dry kibble that he might eat. But buy a small bag to begin with, it is pricey and you don't want to end up with something else he won't eat.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 11:08 AM on August 15, 2016

Best answer: We tried a million different foods for our picky dog. We were concerned that if we add something tasty to make it more appealing, we would never be able to stop adding the tasty stuff.

From your list, he loved Blue Buffalo (but had an allergic reaction), tolerated Merrick for a brief period, did okay on a couple different flavors of Taste of the Wild until he got bored, but is now regularly eating Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain (lamb) flavor.

That said, I think he may have just outgrown some of his pickiness. For an older dog, I second the suggestion to add water. We add water to our oldest dog's food for other reasons, but I think it helps her eat it without tooth pain as well. If we forget to put water on it, she has a really difficult time.
posted by thejanna at 11:42 AM on August 15, 2016

Much like tests trip's experience, my old and very picky dog can be tempted with grated parmesan on his food. Or drippings from meat that was cooked, if I had some recently.
posted by hepta at 12:06 PM on August 15, 2016

Could your bag of dog food be expired? My beloved Silky Terrier always knew when his food was off and would nudge the full bowl all the way over to wherever we were sitting to inform us that the kibble had gone stale.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:43 PM on August 15, 2016

Would *you* like to eat the same thing every day? Variety is the spice of canine life as well!

Give him some new food.

My dog gets bored sometimes. She got bored of Taste of the Wild. She got bored of her old top-of-the-line dry dog food, Acana. Currently she's bored of her dry Fromm's kibble, even though we have four little different flavored bags. She also gets fish twice a week and liver once a week.

So I ordered her some Darwin's raw organic food. You can get the 10-pound sampler pack for only $14.95 (I'm not affiliated with them in any way). My dog loves it to the depths of her soul and snarfs it up immediately. We ordered more, but meanwhile she's back to the Fromm's and she still leaves her breakfast until late in the day, while constantly begging for something else.

When you change foods, yeah, the poop will look a little different but most dogs will be just fine, as long as the food itself is high quality. The idea that dogs have to eat the same food day in and day out as as silly as it would be for people.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 1:04 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've had two fussy dogs who were both happy with Fromm. One would also eat regularly if we mixed in "stew"-style canned food with the dry stuff.
posted by thetortoise at 10:57 PM on August 15, 2016

My fussy guy likes:
A dollop of heavy cream
One or two hand fed handfuls
A little less food for a couple days till he gets hungry enough to get over his bad self.

From your brand list we have tried Holistic Select (grain free, baby gets a rash otherwise) and Natural Balance.
posted by hilaryjade at 5:45 PM on August 16, 2016

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